The Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism-IowaWatch has honored two longtime Iowa news professionals for work they’ve done as mentors to young journalists – The Daily Iowan publisher Bill Casey and The Des Moines Register watchdog reporter Lee Rood.
Casey and Rood were given the center’s IowaWatch Master Mentors awards for their work advancing the careers of young journalists by sharing their knowledge and experience, leadership and overall strong mentorship while acting in an ethical, professional manner; and for having a lasting impact on those charged with using strong journalism to inform the public.
They received the awards at a reception in Des Moines on Saturday, Jan. 23, as part of the Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism-IowaWatch’s mission and vision for training young journalists and encouraging them to do investigative and in-depth reporting.
Casey has been The Daily Iowan publisher since 1976 after starting there in 1972 as a truck driver, then circulation manager. The newspaper, which grew out of a merger of college media at the University of Iowa that started in 1868, is run by students independently of the University of Iowa and its School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
During its history, however, the newspaper has been a training ground for thousands of student journalists who have gone on to positions ranging from founding The Gallop Poll to reporting at The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Cosmopolitan, CNN and ESPN, to being a White House adviser.
In 1987 Casey started the DI Scholars program, which has given more than $1 million tuition scholarships to DI students.
“Bill has been a mentor to students as long as I have known him,” Mary Ungs-Sogaard, publisher of several Iowa weekly newspapers and an IowaWatch board member, wrote when nominating Casey, whom she met in 1978 when joining The Daily Iowan publishing board as a student representative.
Ungs-Sogaard was a pre-medicine student at the University of Iowa but said Casey made such a positive impression on her that she changed her major to journalism. “He has been a great influence on many, many careers in our industry. We remain friends, and I still go to him for consult. The best thing about Bill is that he not only is an excellent mentor, he is also an excellent human being.”
Students have earned The Daily Iowan two Iowa Newspaper of the Year awards, six Pacemakers and five SPJ Best College Newspapers since 1976. In 2005, Casey started Daily Iowan Television (DITV), which also has won numerous awards, including four Emmys. The Daily Iowan has one of the nation’s top college media websites and has the largest budget among U.S. college media organizations at a time when many of those organizations are pulling back on publishing.
Rood has been a Des Moines Register reporter since 1997. While noted for her career in investigative journalism, which includes her readers’ watchdog work, she also shares her time and experiences with young reporters.
“Time after time, Lee has broken big stories and gotten results,” Meghan Malloy, a former Register reporter and currently a Des Moines area lawyer, wrote when nominating Rood for the award. Rood has worked on significant investigative stories and has endeared herself to the public, Malloy wrote.
“Ms. Rood also enjoys her role as a mentor to young reporters, particularly women who are new to the profession,” Malloy wrote. “Unlike other women in the journalism field, who may let a competitive spirit get in the way of cultivating the next generation of female reporters, Ms. Rood teaches without patronizing, and applauds proteges when they are successful. I am very fortunate to call her my mentor and dear friend.”
The Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism-IowaWatch is an independent, 501(c)(3) non-profit and non-partisan journalistic program dedicated to producing high quality investigative journalism in Iowa while training journalism students on this work at a high, ethical level.
IowaWatch provides mentorship to college students in Iowa who want to be journalists and helps in getting their work published by newspapers and news web sites, and exposed through broadcast outlets. IowaWatch.org also publishes their work.